Getting your kid(s) to eat healthier can feel like an uphill battle or an impossible mission. It doesn’t have to be. Making sure your kids are getting the nutrition they need to support healthy growth and development and create healthy eating habits is incredibly important and even more so when your child is an athlete. The fuel they’re putting into their bodies is going to play a major role in their level of performance and also have influence over recovering from injury. Here are six helpful tips to get your kid eating healthier now.
- Commit to Healthy Foods: Many kids are “picky eaters.” Quickly, we fall into the pattern of giving our kids junk foods when they refuse to eat healthy foods because we feel better that at least they’re eating something. This might be one of the worst routines we can get ourselves in and is only making our kids less healthy. Most foods our kids “crave” are rich in sugars. Did you know that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine? In fact, it’s the most addictive substance currently known to man! Giving in to sugary foods only makes the problem worse because of the addictive nature of sugar. It just makes them want more and more. A favorite saying in our household is, “He’ll eat when he’s hungry.” In other words, your kid will not starve if he/she refuses to eat a healthy meal and you don’t give them any other options. Believe me, I know being the mom of a very strong-willed 3 year-olds this can be a challenge, but eventually, they get hungry and eat what’s in front of them.
- Make Mealtime a Family Experience: Thanks to today’s hustle and bustle, it’s becoming less common for people to share a meal together. I know it’s not always possible due to everyone’s schedules, but try to have at least one night (more when possible) a week “saved” for family night. Research has shown that eating as a family has numerous health benefits and boosts the general well being of kids. Plus, they’re more likely to make less healthy choices when they’re eating on their own.
- Create Kitchen Hours of Operation: Science shows kids who snack more are more obese. To help your children understand eating happens at meals or designated snack times, tell your kids that the kitchen is closed between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This will help reduce any eating out of boredom and reduce the dramatic increase in calorie consumption which results from constant snacking.
- Get Your Kids Involved: We all like to have a say in what we eat. Get your kids involved in grocery shopping with you. Let them make decisions about what vegetable you’ll have for dinner or what fruit they may have after school. If the thought of taking them grocery shopping stresses you out, get them involved in the decisions once you return home. This also gives them a voice and a chance to be heard while making healthy decisions for themselves.
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Quit buying the unhealthy stuff in the first place! This removes any temptation for both parents and children and can quickly help change how you’re eating. In the past for myself, this was the easiest solution. It may be difficult at first, but eventually, your kids will find healthier alternatives and the process will get easier.
- Pick One Thing At A Time: Don’t get overwhelmed by these tips. Pick one unhealthy habit to work on first. If your kids love candy, pop and french fries, start by reducing how often they get to have candy, then remove it completely. Once the kids are used to not eating candy, then tone back the pop and then move to the french fries. Each item you remove or replace with a healthy alternative is a win. The wins will quickly add up and make the overall process so much easier for everyone involved.